Hawaii culture a challenge for wine


POSTED: Friday, May 08, 2009

One of the most fascinating observations of touring wine country in Europe is how many diners have wine with their meals.

On our first day in France last year, for example, my wife, Cheryle, and I had lunch at a small cafe in Alsace. Because it was located off the beaten track down a side street, all the diners were locals. It was quite a mix of business people, farmers and plain old regulars. We were utterly amazed how every single table had wine with their lunch.

For them it seems to be a way of life—an attitude. Wine should be served with food and vice versa. No one guzzled; no one tanked their glass. These people drank—and enjoyed—wine with their food just as we in Hawaii would drink iced tea, fruit punch or soda, and we saw the same kind of behavior throughout the rest of France (and Italy).

I think part of the difference is culture. If you will recall, many Europeans who immigrated to San Francisco in the late 1800s and early 1900s looked to grow or buy grapes with which they made wine for their family meals. The Europeans are brought up with wine at the dinner table, and we are not.

Interestingly, however, our American culture is changing, and more and more people of the new generations are in fact enjoying wines. The next challenge the wine industry needs to better address is educating the public as to what wines go with which foods.

Fortunately, this is happening more and more frequently, due to a growing number of wine-savvy restaurants and retail stores. Thanks to their efforts, a steady stream of wine dinners are being planned in Hawaii. In addition, more is being written by the local media, and there is an abundance of information available on the Internet.

The question now is how about wine for home use. As one would expect, this will be an ongoing educational process, especially here in the islands because of the huge variations in ethnic foods, techniques and cultures.

To start the wheels turning, here are a few interesting pairings for you to consider:


Oxtail Soup

These kinds of rich, highly flavored soups work especially well with dry roses.

Really good roses, however, are surprisingly hard to come by. My theory is if you want a good rose, you must set out to make a good rose. Too many versions coming into this market are “;afterthoughts”; of making something with the remnants of red wine production and therefore quite bitter and alcoholic. The really good ones, like Chateau D'Esclans of Provence or Domaine Fontsainte's Gris de Gris, in contrast, are delicious, incredibly light on their feet, food friendly and gulp-able with no hard edges, bitterness or high alcohol content. Try either of these or similar ones with rich soups like this and you are in for a treat.


Korean Kalbi

Kalbi has to be one of my absolute favorite meat dishes of all time, and for the most part I always had thought that either Coke or beer was the ideal accompanying beverage. Superstar local chef Alan Wong has a take off of this island classic which he calls Twice Cooked Shortrib, Soy Braised and Grilled “;Kalbi”; Style, Gingered Shrimp, Ko Choo Jang Sauce. Mark Shishido, the venerable wine director for Alan Wong's restaurants, and certainly one of Hawaii's foremost experts at pairing wines and foods, said they found a slightly chilled 2008 Paul Mathew Gamay Noir provided a most interesting pairing to this dish. The wine's innate exuberant fruit helps squelch the dish's Asianness and at the same time refreshes the palate between bites.

This 125-case production wine unfortunately is not readily available to the average Joe. I believe, however, a viable substitution more readily available includes a couple of handfuls of Gamay Noir-based red wines coming out of France's Beaujolais region. The 2007s are in fact just coming into Hawaii and are available at some of the islands' fine wine stores.

These terrific Gamay Noir-based red wines bring up a fascinating new dimension to pairing wines with Oriental foods, which you can have a lot of fun with at home.

Hopefully, this will encourage you try and experience wines with your meals.


”;By the Glass”; appears every second Friday in HILife. To contact Chuck Furuya, visit www.dkrestaurants.com.